Dark Patterns in UI Design: What You Need to Know

A great user interface (UI) is imperative for an immersive customer experience. Apps and websites rely on UI designs for better navigation. Creating a product with a great user interface eases your interaction with users.

However, some unethical designers leverage dark patterns to trick people and influence user behavior. The concept of dark patterns is highly prevalent in eCommerce, mostly to manipulate shoppers.

This blog post will explain what the different types of dark patterns are and how to avoid them.

What are dark UI patterns?

Dark patterns in UI design are web/app design tricks and strategies intended to influence user behavior and force them to take actions they may not want to do, such as making a purchase, sharing personal information, signing up for a service, etc.

Some dark UI patterns work by exploiting people’s weaknesses. Others take advantage of users’ lack of knowledge or lapses in concentration where they fail to interpret clickbait links correctly.

1. The roach motel

The roach motel pattern works by tricking users into signing up for something. Let’s say someone is checking out of an online store, and they have a checkbox next to the words “Subscribe now for 5% off!” In this case, there’s not much info provided for the user to make a decision.

The only option is to click the “I decline” box and hope that it works.

Dark Pattern: The roach motel

The idea behind the roach motel (your “roach”) is to trap users. That’s why you’ll see companies ask for your email address, phone number, or other personal information.

2. Confirmshaming

Dark Pattern: Confirmshaming

Confirmshaming makes users feel embarrassed or ashamed for not purchasing or doing something. Companies use it to make users feel bad or confused because they use phrasing such as “No thanks, I’m not interested in delicious recipes.”

Businesses who use confirmshaming want users to think they’re getting a great deal by entering their email address or making a purchase—and that they’ll be seriously missing out if they don’t.

3. The bait and switch

Dark Pattern: The bait and switch

This dark pattern in UI design uses highly provocative imagery with an appealing but ungenuine offer for a low-priced product or service. After getting the user’s attention, the seller then substitutes the lower-priced product for a higher-priced one. This tactic is deceptive and works by distracting customers from the original goal.

In some cases, the low-priced item may be of low quality, prompting the user to purchase a higher-priced item that is of better value. Sellers benefit by using the low-priced items to bait customers and instead push for the high-priced items.

4. The disclaimer

Dark Pattern: The disclaimer

The disclaimer is one of the most common UI dark patterns. It forces users to agree to something they don’t want by making the language seem like it’s adding features to an existing plan or product. It happens on websites where someone has to sign up for a new account.

The company will say something like: “By signing up, you agree that we may contact you.” You agree and move forward with the process of filling out the information needed (address, phone number, etc.). The next screen says, “You agree to XX terms and conditions.” At that point, the user has already signed up for the service, and it’s too late to reconsider.

5. Forced continuity

Dark Pattern: Forced continuity

Forced continuity is where a seller provides a free trial for a service and then starts charging the user silently after the free trial has expired, without warning. Ideally, companies exchange the user’s card information with a free trial. These companies do not provide users with the option to cancel the service automatically.

A company with good ethics notifies customers about the end of their free trial and the start of a paid use. This happens through email or text message, where the user can give consent or decline the service.

6. Disguised ads

Dark Pattern: Disguised ads

Disguised ads occur when a brand displays ads to visitors without indicating that they’re actually ads. It’s common on websites with many different media forms, including blogs, picture galleries, etc., with ads mixed in between them. These can be hard to spot, given the fact that users don’t read everything carefully.

7. Trick questions

Dark Pattern: Trick questions

Trick questions entice people to purchase a product, service, or feature by offering something intriguing. A trick question is an indirect term that requires close scrutiny before answering. This is because, at a glance, the real meaning is hidden.

Since most users browse quickly, they are highly likely to click the wrong response or option. For instance, there may be questions like, “Are you sure you don’t want to cancel the service?” Clicking “Okay” means you’ve declined the cancellation you intended to make.

Revolutionize your UI design with VeryCreatives

Now you’ve got some info on how dark patterns in UI design work. Being able to design a product without going the unethical route can help keep your brand reputation intact.

At VeryCreatives, we provide you with the ultimate tips to help you improve UI design when designing products. Read our blog for more information on UI/UX design.

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